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'Australia should lease US nuclear-powered subs', American conference told
3 November 2013
4 November 2013
The new Australian Government should consider nuclear power for its future submarines, an Adelaide-based researcher will tell a major US conference this morning.
University College London’s Professor Stefaan Simons will tell the nuclear engineering plenary session at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting in San Francisco today that Australia ‘cannot afford’ to have only conventional, diesel electric, submarines in its future naval fleet.
Professor Simons, the Director of UCL’s International Energy Policy Institute in Adelaide, and a renowned British chemical engineer, says Australia needs an evolving fleet for its future submarine programme (SEA 1000) since many of the geopolitical challenges in the Asia Pacific will require capabilities that can only be provided by long-range nuclear-powered vessels.
On 12 August, just before the recent Australian elections, the IEPI published a major green paper on the case for Australia considering a nuclear powered submarine. Professor Simons says the paper concluded that Australia’s allies, notably the US, could be prepared to share nuclear submarine technology.
“From our research I am convinced Australia’s allies would be prepared to lease a current nuclear submarine or submarines, in the US case, a Virginia Class. This could be partly crewed, to enable Australia to learn operating and maintenance requirements and procedures and to train navy personnel.
Professor Simons says this view was supported by Richard Armitage, former US deputy Secretary of State, who told the Financial Review recently he “certainly thinks the US government would agree to provide Australia with the Virginia-class technology, which would be very much in the US Navy’s interests.”
Professor Simons, who has been invited to present the green paper’s findings at a plenary session on nuclear technology, will again put forward the case that Australia developing a nuclear powered submarine capability could bring many additional economic benefits and not lead to the destruction of a sovereign ship building capability but could even enhance the development of advanced manufacturing skills in an evolved SEA 1000 procurement programme.
However, he says, Australia would need to invest in training of naval personnel and regulators and would need to embark on a programme of complex international negotiations and diplomacy to enable operation and maintenance of such submarines under applicable international treaties, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with its safeguards commitments, and bilateral cooperation and export controls in relation to trade relating to defence items.